‘Miseducation of Cameron Post’ DP on Respectfully Shooting Lesbian Sex and Why Cooke Panchros Are Great Portrait Lenses

Desiree Akhavan's 'The Miseducation of Cameron Post,' starring Chloë Grace Moretz, is the story of a queer young girl's effort to assert her identity, against all odds. Teenage Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is nonchalant about her sexuality. Were it not for her family's deeply religious and conservative worldview, Cameron probably wouldn't hide the fact that she's attracted to women. And to her, that's just what her sexuality is—a fact, like so many other inconsequential parts of her identity. Inconsequential, that is, until she is caught hooking up with her female Continue reading "‘Miseducation of Cameron Post’ DP on Respectfully Shooting Lesbian Sex and Why Cooke Panchros Are Great Portrait Lenses"

‘Screens Are a Beautiful Light Source’: Director Bo Burnham on ‘Eighth Grade’

Bo Burnham's 'Eighth Grade' is the captivatingly honest coming-of-age tale of the moment. Every coming-of-age story is at once personal and universal. Through the eyes of a young protagonist learning the rules of the world—and unlearning the illusions of childhood—the genre offers a unique window into the humanity of a culture in a moment in time. Onscreen, it's hard to get them right. As technological progress hastens, the chasm between the personal and the universal ever widens. Take characters from a coming-of-age film set in 2008 and place them in one Continue reading "‘Screens Are a Beautiful Light Source’: Director Bo Burnham on ‘Eighth Grade’"

Watch: A Visual Tribute to Robby Müller, ‘The Master of Light’

American Cinematographer compiled a gorgeous supercut in honor of Robby Müller's recent passing. "With deep humanity and an instinctive genius for natural light and spatial relationships, [Robby] Müller created a cinematic authenticity and empathy that bound audiences and characters," wrote American Cinematographer earlier this month after the passing of the legendary cinematographer. The so-called "Master of Light" indeed foregrounded his shots with humanity, using a minimalist approach to keep the focus on the characters. Müller's camera was a window to the soul. Read More

Why Martin Scorsese’s ‘Raging Bull’ Inspired Robert Schwentke to Shoot ‘The Captain’ in Black-and-White

Hollywood director Robert Schwentke doesn't care whether audiences like 'The Captain,' his first indie film. You may recognize Robert Schwentke's name from Hollywood blockbusters such as the Insurgent franchise, RED, or The Time Traveler's Wife. But you won't recognize any elements of those films in The Captain. Schwentke's first independent effort is a singular vision—one that decidedly eschews convention. Taking a cerebral approach to a nearly untouchable subject, Schwentke's film is a challenging watch. If audiences don't like it? Well, that's no concern of his. Indeed, it is all part of the design. Read More

‘Writing This Script Felt Like Throwing Up’: Iram Haq on Conquering Her Fears with ‘What Will People Say’

Iram Haq's 'What Will People Say' is the harrowing story of a Pakistani-Norwegian teenager whose voice—and dignity—is silenced by her family. Many second-generation immigrants live double lives. Caught between the old world and the new, they're tasked with navigating allegiances to their parents and assimilating into their native culture. For Iram Haq, this experience was a singular and traumatizing one. More than a decade later, she's still recovering. A major step toward healing came in the form of filmmaking. Haq's harrowing second feature, What Will People Say, is the autobiographical Continue reading "‘Writing This Script Felt Like Throwing Up’: Iram Haq on Conquering Her Fears with ‘What Will People Say’"

How a Filmmaker Used ‘Radical Directing’ to Turn Realism into an Unbearable Horror-Thriller

Xavier Legrand's 'Custody' slowly reveals the horror of domestic violence. There isn't a quiet moment Xavier Legrand's Custody. On paper, that doesn't make sense—many of the scenes are punctuated with long silences, and there is no musical score. But the silence is a loaded weapon. The film pulsates with the imminent threat of violence; writ large in the characters' body language is evidence of past physical abuse and psychological control. Custody opens with a nearly 15-minute scene depicting a mediation hearing. Miriam (Léa Drucker) and Antoine (Denis Ménochet) are separated and Continue reading "How a Filmmaker Used ‘Radical Directing’ to Turn Realism into an Unbearable Horror-Thriller"

How to Find the Best Distribution Partners For Your Documentary

Top documentary distributors convened at a recent panel at AFI Docs. We were on the scene. As the distribution landscape continues to evolve, it's difficult for filmmakers to keep up. How can one possibly anticipate trends in an ever-changing marketplace? Documentaries, in particular, are subject to extreme variability; forecasting success at the box office for nonfiction films can be akin to reading tea leaves. "We all work in the shadow of Michael Moore," said Molly Thompson, founder of A&E Indie Films, at a recent panel at the 2018 AFI Docs forum Continue reading "How to Find the Best Distribution Partners For Your Documentary"

‘Under the Tree’: How to Perfect Secretly Complex and Subtle VFX

Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson's Icelandic film, Under the Tree, is a mordant comedy of manners. Taken out of context, there's something inherently absurdist about suburban mores. Twist them into a pitch-black comedy, however, and you have a new take on the theatre of the absurd. Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson's Icelandic film, Under the Tree, is a mordant comedy of manners that begins with a regular neighborly dispute over a tree and somehow escalates into Armageddon. Read More

‘Nossa Chape’: Documenting a Plane Crash That Brought Down a Soccer Team

'Nossa Chape,' from co-directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, follows the Chapecoense football club as it recovers from a devastating tragedy. In 2016, a little soccer team was slated to become the world's biggest underdog. Hailing from the city of Chapecó in Brazil, the Chapecoense Football Club made it to the Copa Sudamericana finals in Colombia for the first time since 1978. The entire country watched as the team boarded LaMia Flight 2933 headed to Medellin. Then— abruptly, tragically— the story came to an end. The plane crashed, killing 71 of 77 people on board. (Miraculously, Continue reading "‘Nossa Chape’: Documenting a Plane Crash That Brought Down a Soccer Team"

‘En el Séptimo Día’: Jim McKay on Directing Prestige TV vs. Homegrown Indies

Starring mostly non-actors, Jim McKay's 'En el Séptimo Día' is an intimate portrait of the week in the life of an undocumented immigrant. A bicycle deliveryman pedals ferociously through the New York City summer heat, multiple plastic bags in tow. He's anonymous in a sea of cars and people, dwarfed by an unforgiving urban landscape. In the distance, Lady Liberty looms—a beacon of the American Dream so far out of reach it is merely an almost imperceptible gleam on the horizon. Read More

Oscar-Winning Director Morgan Neville: ‘Narrative Filmmaking is in a Rut, But Doc is Just Starting’

'Won't You Be My Neighbor' is about Fred Rogers, but it's also about the quiet radicalism of kindness. "What we see and hear on the screen becomes who we are," says Fred Rogers in Morgan Neville's documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor, about the cultural icon. It's a sentiment that eluded the mainstream in Mr. Roger's time, even as America began to realize the immense power and potential of television. And so Rogers created Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, an antidote to the vapidity of popular television, and the first show of its kind. From his Continue reading "Oscar-Winning Director Morgan Neville: ‘Narrative Filmmaking is in a Rut, But Doc is Just Starting’"

‘Hereditary’: How Ari Aster Pushed His Horrifying Film ‘As Dark As It Could Go’

Finding a debut feature this strong is scary for all the right reasons. [Editor's Note: This article is spoiler-free.] The horror film is a loaded weapon. In the wrong hands, it can be a farce—a projection of ghoulish fantasies happening to one-dimensional characters in a world that barely resembles our own. But wielded wisely, a horror film is a mirror. It reflects the deepest fears of the human mind, sending aftershocks that reverberate in the dark recesses of the imagination well after the lights go out. Continue reading "‘Hereditary’: How Ari Aster Pushed His Horrifying Film ‘As Dark As It Could Go’"

‘Summer 1993’: How to Shoot an Award-Winning Film About Your Own Life

'Summer 1993' director Carla Simón reveals the complex process of weaving her memory into fiction. When one experiences trauma as a child, it can be difficult to talk about well into adulthood. Carla Simón decided to turn her childhood trauma into a cinematic memoir. Summer 1993, Simón's new film, is the autobiographical story of the summer she was orphaned. At six years old, Simón, in the film named Frida, left Barcelona to live with her aunt in the Catalonian countryside. She is old enough to understand the concept of death—in fact, she is obsessed Continue reading "‘Summer 1993’: How to Shoot an Award-Winning Film About Your Own Life"

‘Mary Shelley’: The First Female Saudi Arabian Filmmaker Brings ‘Frankenstein’ Back to Life

Haifaa al-Mansour, the first Saudi-Arabian female director, tells the story of the mother of sci-fi. Science fiction is often regarded as a male-dominated genre. But as history would have it, the first science-fiction novel was written by a woman—and a very young woman at that. Her name was Mary Shelley, and at age 21, she wrote Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). 200 years later, Shelley's story is now being told by another pioneering feminist: Haifaa al-Mansour, the first female Saudi-Arabian filmmaker. Her 2012 film, Wadjda, about a young girl Continue reading "‘Mary Shelley’: The First Female Saudi Arabian Filmmaker Brings ‘Frankenstein’ Back to Life"

Watch: How Minimalistic Cinematography Brought ‘The Godfather Part II’ to Life

DP Mike Eley breaks down Gordon Willis's cinematography in 'The Godfather Part II.' In a new video essay from Cooke Optics, Mike Eley, cinematographer of Jane Eyre, Touching the Void, and, most recently, Woman Walks Ahead, walks us through the game-changing cinematography of The Godfather Part II. To shoot the film, the legendary "Prince of Darkness" Gordon Willis expanded upon the shadowy, underlit aesthetic he employed on The Godfather, but there were some notable changes to his method. For one, the Eley explains, The Godfather Part II Continue reading "Watch: How Minimalistic Cinematography Brought ‘The Godfather Part II’ to Life"

Peek Behind-the-Scenes of Spike Lee’s Epic Career with the Director and Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin calls Spike Lee 'one of the greatest filmmakers alive.' When the two get together, knowledge is dropped. For a long time, Alec Baldwin couldn't get Spike Lee on the phone. "He is impossible to reach. He finally called me back and said, 'Hey!' as if nothing happened," Baldwin said at a recent Tribeca Talk at the 2018 festival. On the phone that day, Lee had agreed to do the Tribeca Talk, but put forth a request: that they not talk about Lee's movies. So Baldwin had Lee pick a movie to Continue reading "Peek Behind-the-Scenes of Spike Lee’s Epic Career with the Director and Alec Baldwin"

‘The Bleeding Edge’: The ‘Outrage’ Art of the Investigative Documentary Exposé

A new Netflix documentary from Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering shines a light on the perils of the medical device industry. "When it comes to medical devices, we created a system that doesn’t work," says former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler in Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering's Netflix documentary The Bleeding Edge. That's a bold statement to make about a $400 billion healthcare industry, particularly coming from its former gatekeeper. But to the patients whose lives have been irrevocably—and often traumatically—harmed due to complications from devices that were not tested on humans, it's an understatement. Continue reading "‘The Bleeding Edge’: The ‘Outrage’ Art of the Investigative Documentary Exposé"

Watch: The Notorious Evolution of Daniel Plainview’s Character in ‘There Will Be Blood’

A new video essay delves deep into the creation of Daniel Plainview, the infamous prospector in Paul Thomas Anderson's 'There Will Be Blood.' "Daniel Plainview is one of the most well-developed characters in cinema history," says Tyler Knudsen in his new video essay from the series Cinema Tyler. It's true—Daniel Day-Lewis's embodiment of Paul Thomas Anderson's fictional oilman is, at least in the realm of American cinema, unparalleled in its complexity. Plainview's obsessive ambition, avarice, manipulative tendencies, charisma, and intelligence are a Molotov cocktail made in antihero heaven. Drawing on Continue reading "Watch: The Notorious Evolution of Daniel Plainview’s Character in ‘There Will Be Blood’"

‘Pick of the Litter’: How to Navigate Festival Deals, or ‘The Business Side of Film School’

Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, co-directors of 'Pick of the Litter,' discuss how they navigated a competitive market at Slamdance for a deal with IFC Films. "Your film is not a 'festival' film." That's what an industry insider told Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, co-directors of the documentary Pick of the Litter. Weeks later, it was accepted at the Slamdance Film Festival—in the opening night slot. After it screened there, the film was picked up by IFC Film's Sundance Selects. And nearly ten festivals later, it was recently a finalist for the Audience Award Continue reading "‘Pick of the Litter’: How to Navigate Festival Deals, or ‘The Business Side of Film School’"

Watch: BTS with the Skeleton Crew of David Lowery’s ‘A Ghost Story’

A new video shows intimate moments from the set of David Lowery's 'A Ghost Story.' When we spoke to David Lowery about his transcendent A Ghost Story last summer, the director told us that he almost quit halfway through. "There was a point in production where I lost all my confidence," he said, "and I thought it was too high-concept to succeed." Lowery's primary concern was the viability of the ghost costume on camera. "To make [the ghost] costume work in three dimensions was a feat of mechanical engineering," he said. Continue reading "Watch: BTS with the Skeleton Crew of David Lowery’s ‘A Ghost Story’"